For quite a few years now, we have become accustomed to seeing Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi at the top of the charts for the highest paid footballers.
The superstars continue to be in the top three in terms of income from wages and sponsorship deals, although Kylian Mbappe has now displaced them from the top spot. After signing a huge new contract with Paris Saint-Germain in the summer, the Frenchman is currently No.1 among all his colleagues and is expected to earn at least €125m for the 2022/23 season.
The surprise in the player earnings rankings, however, is another. In the top 10, the presence of a football player who does not play in any of the top leagues and whose strongest years have long passed is noticeable.
Andres Iniesta left Barcelona back in 2018 and surprisingly or not, went to play in Japan for Vissel Kobe. The legend of the Catalans and one of the most remarkable midfielders of his generation is already 38 years old, but remains seventh among the best-paid footballers with his 30 million euros per season.
In his most brilliant period on the pitch with the Barca team, the great midfielder earned around 12 million euros a year – a rather modest amount for his status and his capabilities.
However, now only his salary in Vissel Kobe is in the amount of 23 million euros, and another 7 million are the Spaniard’s income from sponsors.
What is even more significant about Iniesta is that he has long been thinking about life after football and is building his massive business empire with a number of promising businesses that are constantly growing.
Don’t think he’s somehow shirking his duties on the field — the veteran continues to shine in the J League and landed on last year’s All-Star team. But he doesn’t have much time left as a footballer and it won’t be long before his days on the pitch will be but a memory.
Therefore, he invests in several main areas. Iniesta has already founded his marketing agency, which will build the image of other athletes, and his expectations are that the initiative will bring him about 20 million euros a year.
The midfielder also owns the fashion company Mikakus, and just recently announced his own brand of special football boots – Capitten.
Only 888 of these will be produced and all of them are the number 41 worn by Iniesta himself. Each pair also arrives personally autographed by him.
Above all, however, the main thing for the football player is the wine business. It is indispensable to Andrés because it is connected to his birthplace Fuentealbia, a small village in the Castilla-La Mancha region.
The place has a population of less than 2,000 people, and there the player first fell in love with football, and today, even from far away Asia, he continues to manage the family winery Bodega Iniesta.
The winery was founded by the father of the footballer José Antonio in the 90s and is something normal for Fuentealbia, where most families develop a wine business and are economically dependent on the wine they produce.
However, the coronavirus pandemic is having its say – exports and wine tourism are falling seriously. For Bodega Iniesta, the connection with a world football star is key in the most difficult period and softens the blow of the crisis.
Andres is a fundamental figure for his home village and there most residents know the 38-year-old player personally.
In one of the most difficult periods of the crisis, in July 2020, Spain marked 10 years since winning their only World Cup, when it was Iniesta who delivered the triumph with a winning goal against the Netherlands.
More important for Andres is not that moment of his stardom, but his entire contribution to Fuentealbia and the region. His football qualities were first evident in Albacete, the closest team to his home village.
It was in Albacete that Iniesta played before being drawn to the famous “La Masia” and becoming a Barcelona youth player.
Back in 2011, the midfielder invested over 400,000 euros in Albacete, and later even saved the club from administrative relegation to the third division and poured in another serious sum of 240,000 euros to pay due salaries.
When the pandemic broke out, Iniesta made a donation for extra beds and sanitary equipment for the hospitals in Albacete. Such gestures come as no surprise to those who know Andres, but what is more unusual is how involved the player is with the winery, despite being thousands of kilometers away.
He is not one of those footballers who completely let other people run their business and is in constant contact with Bodega Iniesta, constantly involved in marketing strategies and other aspects of the company’s development.
His associate from Iniesta’s sports marketing company Never Say Never (NSN) Joel Boras also confirmed it.
“He is very intelligent and very dedicated to everything he does. He is not just an investor, but also a leader of his projects,” Boras assures.
NSN was previously called Sports&Life, but is rebranding and expanding its reach into areas such as video games and audiovisual content production. For this purpose, the footballer and his partners are expanding the company to 70 people working in offices in Barcelona, Madrid, Kobe, Mexico City, Seoul and Tel Aviv.
He and Joel Boras met 15 years ago when Iniesta needed someone to create his personal website and take care of his social media presence.
He found Boras, and later the friends became business partners and their common company came.
“We work great together because we know each other perfectly,” says Boras.
They have already signed a contract with La Liga to organize a big concert at the end of each season by the Spanish elite, and the first edition of the show was on June 11 this year.
The NSN company is also getting more serious into e-sports and a number of other ventures, and Iniesta has no problem moving his businesses out of Japan, where he will remain until at least 2023 to fulfill his current contract.
In Asia, Andres lives a quiet life with his family, away from the media attention in Spain.
The midfielder’s fortune is currently estimated at over €120 million, but it will surely continue to grow in the coming years – when Iniesta the footballer will be in the past and we will be talking all about Iniesta the businessman.